CITIZEN TELEGRAM - 4/26/2012 City: Do Oil Shale The Right Way

Apr 26, 2012
By Mike McKibbin
Rifle, CO
Oil shale busts that last two decades, as the most recent one did, is something the city of Rifle wants to avoid, if and when commercial development of the oil-shale rich Roan Plateau again occurs.

That's what City Council said in official comments to the Bureau of Land Management on a draft study of a range of alternatives for leasing federal acreage in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Council unanimously supported the letter at its April 18 meeting.

“We've always said we support the industry,” said Government Affairs Coordinator Mike Braaten. “But we want the impacts to local communities to be recognized, and we want the federal level to ensure we'll have some financial help to address those impacts.”

Councilmember Keith Lambert said personally, he has a problem with the BLM offering leases now, instead of waiting until economic conditions improve and they can get a higher price on the leases.

“The amount of money realized will be much more than you get today,” Lambert said. “That could really help mitigate the impacts.”

Mayor Jay Miller noted leasing decisions are not up to the city.

“I don't think we're going to be inundated with people rushing in for oil shale, because there's no federal money like there was last time,” he said.

Federal subsidies to energy companies in the 1970s helped spur the last oil shale boom. Their expiration also contributed to the bust.

The city letter did not endorse a specific leasing alternative in the BLM draft study.

“Instead of selecting one of the alternatives put forward by the BLM, the Rifle City Council implores (Interior) Secretary (Ken) Salazar, BLM officials and our Congressmen and Senators to address the...issues in whatever alternative is ultimately selected as the preferred alternative for the allocation of oil shale resources,” the letter reads.

The BLM's preferred draft alternative would cut potential commercial oil shale acreage from 2 million to 461,000 acres across the three states, down to 35,308 acres in Colorado.

Garfield County Commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin told City Council they supported the city's stance.

“The county's resolution does not say we want to see them rape and pillage the land,” Samson said. “It urges the federal government to work with us. There's no reason the USA should not develop its resources in a manageable way.”